A Viejita's Fable.
I honor my Viejitas memory today to rejoice in her departure.
You got a little ahead of us and we will one day be reunited.
Te vamos a extrañar.
My Viejita was a very funny woman and a great story teller –
a tiny lady she was always able to convey her strong messages by her use
of funny and entertaining stories.
I remember I was about 10 and we had gone out (way before day break,
like we did once a week) to cut and gather wood.
We would get our four donkeys fitted into their special wooden saddles.
They were specially fitted for carrying stacks of cut fire wood.
The wood came from the pine trees at the base of the nearest mountain ridge.
The trip there usually took an hour and a half to get there, roughly two hours to cut,
and load the wood and than almost two hours to get back.
But this morning everything went wrong with my older brother Rudy’s grey,
and brown colored donkey… “Cuquita” (Koo Key Tah) who got startled
by small pine cone that had fallen and hit her on the head.
Cuquita began to bray loudly and then started kicking wildly in every direction…
round and round, all the while Rudy kept trying to get close to her to get to her reins.
He almost had her a couple of times but she shoved him to the floor with one
of her spinning kicks.
Then all of a sudden she stopped and off she ran down the same dirt path
we had all just come from. In her gymnastic chaos she had ended up
scattering every piece of the wood we had loaded,
and tied down on her back.
My two other brothers and I (we are nine boys),
were slightly in front leading our own donkeys when the ruckus began,
and we couldn’t help but laugh and make fun of Cuquita,
and her "jinete," what a sight it was!
We all watched as Cuquita kept bucking and circling round and round...
my oldest brother, all the while trying to keep
his old straw hat on and his dignity in place.
He ended up chasing after Cuquita, screaming, and cussing the whole
time and trying desperately to get her to stop.
In an instant they were both out of sight, disappearing around the bend
into the woods leaving only a cloud of dust and a hundred pieces of cut
wood scattered in every direction.
By this time we were all rolling on the ground laughing our hearts out…
so hard that after a few minutes our stomachs ached.
But they also ached for some freshly made flour tortillas, and delicious
potato and egg breakfast that we knew awaited us back home.
So we didn’t give it much thought and back home we went.
Each time one of us even sneeked a peek at one another we would
start laughing all over again.
Our donkeys would just look at us and wondered who were
the bigger jackasses.
The visual was priceless.
As soon as we walked through our courtyard headed into the small corral,
we looked over towards the kitchen and saw our Viejita standing there.
She looked like she was counting and then she began wiping her hands on her apron.
We looked at each other not knowing what we were going to say.
“Donde esta su hermano y Cuquita?”
The story wasn’t as funny now.
We knew immediately that we had let her down.
She looked at us with her piercing brown eyes, her frown was intense,
and she shook her head and then quietly said,
“You should be ashamed of yourselves.”
“You should be embarrassed that you failed miserably at working together today.”
“Did one of you not stop think that by helping with Cuquita,
you’d be helping us all?”
Later that week the four of us had to go back for one load of wood.
Since three loads would not be enough to last us through the entire week.
But later that day as we gathered for lunch our Viejita told us a story….
“You all know old man Virgilio Cuevas that lives in La Cienega?
We all nodded in agreement as we ate our caldo de res and freshly made tortillas.
Well a few years ago, he and his first wife Socorro had just gotten home from
going into town.
They brought in a small package about the size of an apple,
and set it on their table.
A tiny grey mouse that lived with them, peeked from his mouse door,
and looked up at the old man and his wife as they unwrapped the small package”...
“I wonder what could be wrapped up in there?
Maybe its a piece of sweet piloncillo.”
The little grey mouse wondered out loud.
“Aye Caramba! NO puede ser!” The little grey mouse was devastated
to see it was a mousetrap.
So back through his mouse door he flew and he ran as fast as he could
out the other side of the wall into the corral.
He was yelling all the way… "Hay una trampa en la casa!
We have a mouse trap in the house!"
The chicken scratched the dirt a bit and gave out a cluck…
then lifted her head and said,
"Mr Ratón, I understand that this can have very grave consequences for you,
but no implications for me.
So I am sorry, but I can’t give it any thought."
A little dejected, the little grey mouse turned and scampered towards
the old pig and lamented out loud,
"Hola Señor Marrano, there is a mousetrap in the house!"
The old pig felt a little bit of pity and looked over and said,
"I am very sorry indeed Mr. Ratón, but there is nothing that I can do
but pray for you.
That I’ll be sure to do tonight, is I’ll say a little prayer for you."
The little grey mouse couldn’t believe his ears and so he ran a few more feet,
and then looked up at the big brown and white colored cow.
“Señorita Vaca, there is a mousetrap in the house!”
The big brown and white cow stuck out her long big pink tongue,
and then slowly licked up around her right cheek and up and over her right
eye lash and then looked down at the little grey mouse and spoke in her
typical matronly best,
"Lo siento, Mr. Ratón. I do have pity for your situation,
but it just doesn’t affect me."
And with that, the little grey mouse turned and slowly walked back to the house,
quite dejected and sad but now ready to confront old Virgilio and Socorro’s
mousetrap all by his little self.
That same night there was a loud metal sounding SNAP!! CLACKITY CLAP!
It was heard throughout the whole house…
it sounded a lot like the sound of a mousetrap trapping its prey...
Old man Virgillio’s wife Socorro ran over to see what the mouse trap had caught...
and in the darkness, could not see what it was and went to grab it.
But there in the mouse trap was the tail end of a large rattlesnake that had gotten
caught in the trap.
The snake was pretty upset and hissed and then lashed out and bit the old man
Virgilio’s wife right on her hand.
Old man Virgilio came running and seeing what had happened finished killing
the snake and rushed Socorro and the snake in the mousetrap to the village Doctor.
The Doctor did all that he could to suck the venon out but the poison from
the “cascabel” was always deadly.
He ended up sending them both home to rest and to make sure to keep
Socorro’s hand elevated.
Giving her fresh cow’s milk every hour and a cold wet cloth on her head.
But her temperature rose and rose and she shivered and moaned.
To help Socorro feel better and overcome her fever, old man Virgilio decided
to make her some home cooked chicken caldo.
So he took out his sharp axe and went to the coral looking for the main ingredient.
The next day Socorro was still very ill and many of their friends and neighbors
came to help care for her and a few of the women stayed several days.
To feed them all old Virgilio decided he had to cook some pork chops.
Poor Socorro just wasn’t getting any better and kept suffering from her
poisonous “cascabel” bite.
Sadly that very next day she died.
Soon everyone came to pay their respects. So many neighbors came
to attend Socorro’s funeral that old man Virgilio had to sacrifice his favorite
big brown and white cow to have enough meat to feed all of the visitors.
The moral of this story my Viejita said…
“The very next time that you know that someone close to you is facing
a significant problem and you think that it doesn’t affect you,
remember old Virgilio’s story!
“Whatever threatens one of us, can easily affect all of us!”
Make it a thoughtful dia!